Obligatory New Year resolutions post

Well, here we are in 2014. Traditionally the time of year when we start making resolutions for all the things we’re going to do (or not do, or stop doing) over the course of the next twelve months.

 

I’ve given this some thought. Photo a day? Blog post a day? Read all my unread books?

Handily I managed to get through January 1st without doing anything much other than relax, so all thoughts of ‘do X every day in 2014’ have neatly gone out of the window. It does rather take the pressure off.

That said, I would like to do more things in 2014. I hesitate to call them resolutions as such, but for my own reference, here they are.

Blog more
Or at the very least, blog more regularly.
The handy WordPress review of the year showed that I posted 201 blog posts in 2013. That seems like a nice number – I put up a post for just over half of the year. However, lots of this was clustered – February and November had a post every day as part of various challenges, whereas other months were very quiet. December, I’m looking at you. So, I’d like to get into more of a routine, post more regularly and make more use of scheduled posts for when I’m not feeling inspired. I’m sure there will be various ‘blog every day in [month]’ challenges along the way as well!

Make more photographs
I took a lot of photos last year with the (admittedly quite good) camera on my phone. But I want to get out and explore the city more as part of an upcoming collaborative project I’ve got in the works. As part of that I’ll be digging out my DSLR and getting back into the habit of making more photos.

Read more
I used GoodReads last year to keep track of the books I’ve read. I’d planned to make inroads into my Great Unread Book Pile, which didn’t really happen. I got through 27 books last year, though quite a few of them were new ones. This year I’d like to spend more time reading rather than faffing around on the internet. Can I clear some more books off the list?

Practice on my guitar
I bought a guitar towards the end of 2012, with the intention of teaching myself how to play it – I’ve never played an instrument before but figured now was as good a time as any to get started. I’ve taken it out of the case at least four times in the course of 2013, had a go and put it away again. A friend has persuaded me that ten minutes’ practice each day will pay dividends, and has given me some exercises to get started. We’ll see where that ends up.

Ride my bike more
I didn’t get out on my bike as much as I’d have liked last year, mainly due to laziness on my behalf. Couple that with a nasty spill towards the end of the year which left me with bloodied palms, bashed elbows, grazed knees and a lovely scratch on the face of my new watch. Always wear a helmet when out riding, kids. And gloves…
I’d find that I had an hour spare, but think it wasn’t worth going out for such a short time – I love the weekend long 20-30 mile rides! So I’d make excuses and leave the bike in the garage. Now wish I’d taken the chances where I’d got them. After all, an hour spent on the bike is better than an hour spent not on a bike.

That’s it, I think. Have you made any resolutions for 2014? What are yours?

The First 20 Hours

Fascinating talk by Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours, at TEDxCSU.

Josh looks at how long it takes to learn something to a reasonable level of skill. There’s a perceived wisdom that it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something, and as Josh says, you see this all over the place – books, blogs, articles etc.

I don’t have ten thousand hours… I’m never going to be able to learn anything new, ever again

Ten thousand hours equates to a full-time job for FIVE YEARS.

Turns out that the 10,000 hour rule applies to expert level, world-class, high-performing people at the very top of their very specific fields. This turned into 10,000 hours to get good at something, to 10,000 hours to learn something.

Who’s got ten thousand hours? Not me.

So, how long does it take to get reasonably good at something?

According to Josh’s research,  it takes about twenty hours. But you’ve got to be canny about it. You can’t just throw 20 hours at something and expect it to stick.

Josh breaks down his approach into 4 basic steps:

1. Deconstruct the skill.
Decide *exactly* what it is you want to do when you’re done. What are the parts of the skills you need to do what you need to do. Find the most important thing to practice first – such as a few key chords on the guitar (or in Josh’s case, the ukulele) which will give you enough to play a lot of songs. Learn the most common 2,000 words in a language, and you’ll be able to get by.

2. Learn just enough to self-correct.
Make mistakes, identify where the error is and correct it yourself using books, DVDs, online sources etc. But don’t spend all your time reading the books first.

3. Remove barriers to learning.
Get rid of distractions which stop you from sitting down and doing the work. Turn off the TV, internet and so on. Make space and time to practice.

4. Practice for at least 20 hours.
Twenty hours is 45 minutes a day, for about a month. That’s do-able, right?

So, twenty hours. What are you going to learn? Me, I’m going to pick up the guitar that I got for christmas last year, the one which has sat in its bag right next to me for six months. The one which I’m scared of picking up in case I’m terrible. It’ll take years to get good, right?

Apparently not.

Let’s see where we can get to in twenty hours. Josh talks about a band called Axis of Awesome, who have a song in which they reckon that you can play pretty much any pop song from the last five decades with just four chords (G, D, Em, C). He plays it in the video above, but here’s the original.

Four chords? I’ll take that. I figure that once I can knock out a few songs on the guitar, I can go get the ukulele I’ve secretly always wanted…

I’ll report back on progress!